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Payne proves pivotal again

Logic would dictate that a football team can’t just run the same play every time it needs a touchdown.

But until someone can stop the jump ball to Phillip Payne, its likely UNLV will keep calling it.

Payne made yet another athletic grab of an Omar Clayton pass to help UNLV defeat a major conference opponent in overtime at Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday night.

Last week at Arizona State, Payne’s second touchdown catch of the game forced overtime, in which the Rebels claimed a 23-20 victory.

This time it was a 34-31 victory over Iowa State. The freshman’s heroics came in the extra period and ended the game immediately.

“Obviously, as everyone knows, Phillip Payne is just a tremendous player that makes plays, and he just has a knack for it,” Rebels coach Mike Sanford said. “I thought Omar Clayton also did a very good job of putting the ball up there in a position where a play could be made.”

Sanford summed up all of that with his next statement.

“That was an awesome play,” he said with a grin.

After an Iowa State field goal on the first overtime possession, UNLV turned to what has been its most productive play of the season on its first offensive snap of overtime.

That play is to simply throw the ball up in Payne’s vicinity.

“I just jumped,” he said, choosing instead to praise his quarterback. “Omar put the ball in a great spot. That was a great throw.”

Until the winning grab, Payne had only one catch as veterans Casey Flair and Ryan Wolfe did most of the work.

Payne suffered a minor leg bruise in the first quarter but missed only one series.

He said the injury was not the reason he made only one catch in regulation.

“Everyone else was making plays for us,” Payne said. “The plan is just to win. I don’t care if I’m just cheering guys on.”

Payne’s touchdown was the fifth of the season for the true freshman from Western High School. He has caught at least one scoring pass in every game.

Flair made seven receptions for 92 yards and a touchdown. Wolfe added four catches for 61 yards for the Rebels.

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